Pilot scheme will use app to promote and reward healthy lifestyles

HeadUp Systems awarded contract to develop new app with £3m in government funding made available for rewards

The Government is hoping a new app and incentives will encourage people to lead healthier lifestyles, reducing obesity and associated medical conditions

A new app to help people make positive changes to their diet and increase involvement in physical activity will launch next year, the Government announced this week.

From January 2022, a pilot will see users iven wrist-worn devices that can generate personalised health recommendations, such as increasing their step count, eating more fruit and vegetables, and decreasing portion size.

And users will collect points for these healthy behaviours which will unlock rewards, including gym passes, clothes or food vouchers, and discounts for shops, cinema, or theme park tickets.

The efforts will be underpinned by a new app, which will be developed by HeadUp Systems, which was awarded a contract to deliver the scheme following a competitive tender process.

It comes as evidence suggests that financial incentives can improve rates of physical activity and inspire healthier eating.

So HeadUp will work with a range of organisations to provide rewards such as vouchers, merchandise, discounts and gift cards.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “I want to ensure we’re doing as much as we can to tackle health disparities across the country, and this new pilot will pave the way for developing innovative ways to improve the lives of individuals, and also help to reduce strain on the NHS.

“The Office of Health Improvement and Disparities is driving forward our levelling-up agenda for health and ensuring prevention is a vital part of everything we do.

This scheme is a fantastic opportunity to explore how government, business, and the third sector can work together to deliver a new and engaging way of supporting the public to make healthier choices

“This pilot is an excellent opportunity to find how best to inspire people to make small changes to their daily lives that will have a lasting positive impact on their health.

“As part of our world-leading healthy weight strategy, the new scheme will be part of the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities’ (OHID) drive to use digital technology to improve physical health and prevent health conditions before they develop.”

Obesity-related illnesses cost the NHS £6billion a year and the scale of the challenge has been highlighted by COVID-19 disproportionately affecting people who are overweight.

And, with almost two-thirds of adults in England living with excess weight or obesity, the programme will focus on incentives and rewards for healthy behaviours, including increasing physical activity and eating better to support people to live healthier lives.

Public Health Minister, Maggie Throup, said: “We are committed to improving the health of people across the country and the HeadUp app pilot will help us better understand how appropriate rewards can motivate people to make positive changes to their diet and physical activity, supporting them to lead healthier lives.

“Internationally there are examples of innovative incentives programme showing promising results, such as Singapore’s National Steps Challenge, and the Government will work closely with international partners to understand what makes these schemes successful to inform best practices in England.”

Sir Keith Mills, who has pioneered reward programmes through Airmiles and Nectar points, is advising the Health Incentives Scheme and will support the Government in taking advantage of the very-best innovation in the public and private sector.

And the new app will place user privacy and security at its core, ensuring all personal information is safe and secure at all times.

As an evidence-based, data science company focused on people’s health around the world, we are immensely proud to play a part in piloting an exciting new approach to the urgent and important challenge of helping people engage with their health and improve their health behaviours

Sir Keith Mills, Health Incentives adviser, said: “This scheme is a fantastic opportunity to explore how government, business, and the third sector can work together to deliver a new and engaging way of supporting the public to make healthier choices.

“Through the pilot we will have exciting and innovative partners on board will help motivate people to want to earn incentives, but also should help them overcome barriers to making healthy decisions in future.

And David Parfitt, strategy director at HeadUp, told BBH: “As an evidence-based, data science company focused on people’s health around the world, we are immensely proud to be working with the Government and key stakeholders, people in the community, and with the behavioural insights team as our design and evaluation partner, to play a part in piloting an exciting new approach to the urgent and important challenge of helping people engage with their health and improve their health behaviours.”

The Health Incentives Scheme was announced as part of a £100m package of government support to help those living with obesity to move closer towards a healthier weight and give them the tools they need to maintain this.

The pilot will launch in January and will run for six months in a defined location in England to be announced.